Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dru's Cozy Report: March Reading List

Welcome to Dru's Cozy Report. I will be sharing, on a monthly basis, my views on current cozy mysteries. The first two entries are debut series featuring a pet rescuer and a whitewater river ranger and the next two entries are about a small town mayor and school psychologist.

Beaglemania by Linda O. Johnston is the first book in the new “Pet Rescue” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, March 2011

At a particularly nasty puppy mill, Lauren helps rescue four adorable beagle puppies that were dumped down a drainpipe, and she’s pretty sure she knows who is responsible. Efram Kiley, one of the mill’s employees, has a history of dog abuse. And it seems he has a bone to pick with Lauren, because he soon shows up at HotRescues and stirs up trouble by threatening her. When Efram is found dead at the shelter, Lauren becomes the prime suspect, and she’ll have to sniff out the real killer to keep herself out of a cage–for life.
Lauren Vancouver runs the local no-kill animal shelter and after a volunteer worker is fired, she finds his dead body and becomes prime suspect when it is learned they had a threatening confrontation. Believing that the police are not looking at anyone else, Lauren begins an investigation of her own to clear her name. The mystery kept me on my toes and I enjoyed watching Lauren sink her teeth into this case without fear of being bitten. There were some personal insights into Lauren and a hint of a romance on the horizon. The author’s love of saving animals was evident as we learn the needs of re-homing and finding new adoptive homes for animals living in shelters. I can’t wait to read the next book in this pet-friendly series.

Visit Linda O. Johnston's website at http://lindaojohnston.com/

Linda also writes the “Kendra Ballantine, Pet-Sitter” mystery series and paranormal romances for Harlequin.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book

Deadly Currents by Beth Groundwater is the first book in the new "Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures" mystery series. Publisher: Midnight Ink, March 2011

The Arkansas River, heart and soul of Salida, Colorado, fuels the small town’s economy and thrums in the blood of river ranger Mandy Tanner. When a whitewater rafting accident occurs, she deftly executes a rescue, but a man dies anyway. Turns out, it wasn’t the rapids that killed him—he was murdered. Tom King was a rich land developer with bitter business rivals, who cheated on his wife, refused to support his kayak-obsessed son, and infuriated environmentalists. Mandy’s world is upended again when tragedy strikes closer to home. Suspicious that the most recent death is connected to Tom King’s murder, Mandy goes on an emotionally turbulent quest for the truth—and ends up in dangerous waters.
What a wave of a ride! This story kept my attention as I watched Amanda (Mandy) Tanner slip into the fascinating world of whitewater rafting and investigating. Trying to protect her uncle’s name, Mandy starts asking questions that someone does not want answered. Faced with a family heartbreak, Mandy moved up her efforts to find the murderer. The closer Mandy gets, a killer watches, ready to make a move. Striking out at her does not stop Mandy, but spurns her on. The author did a good job at twisting me around because I should have seen the killer but I didn’t. That’s a good mystery. I love the setting and this is from someone who will never get that close to nature’s water. The wonderful cast features an exuberant Mandy, her best friend Cynthia, who tagged along on Mandy’s investigations, her brother David, who I hope we see more of and her boyfriend, Rob. This was a wave-smashing soak-yourself-to-the-bone ride and I’m looking forward to the next adventure in this energizing series.

Visit Beth Groundwater’s website at http://bethgroundwater.com/

Beth also writes the “Claire Hanover” mystery series.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought this book.

A Touch Of Gold by Joyce and Jim Lavene is the second book in the "Missing Pieces" mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, March 2011

Long before he became curator of the Duck Historical Museum, Max Caudle contributed its greatest treasure—a wooden chest full of gold he discovered washed up on shore. Tales of pirates and their booty have long been part of local folklore, but history is really made when someone fires a cannonball into the museum, destroying the building and killing Max, before looting the gold. Injured in the explosion, Dae finds her abilities have been amplified, overwhelming her with intense visions every time she touches an object. Now if ex-FBI agent—and burgeoning beau—Kevin Brickman can help Dae decipher her visions, she just might be able to stop the modern-day buccaneer from killing again.
Wow, what a story. Dae was just talking to the museum’s curator when the building explodes killing him and injuring herself. When her abilities are acutely heighten, a touch of a gold coin tells her there’s more to this building explosion and Dae vows to find the person responsible for killing her friend. This was a compelling story that captured my attention right from the start. This action-filled mystery started with a bang and didn’t let up until the last secret was revealed. As Dae sort through all that she is envisioning, someone else is trying to hide their involvement by any means necessary, no matter who gets hurt. I like that the author had me going one way or the other as I tried to figure out who the killer was and then I knew and I was like “whoa.“ With a quaint coastal setting, a great cast and refreshing dialogue, this was an enjoyable and pleasant read and I look forward to reading the next book in this delightfully charming series.

Visit Joyce and Jim Lavene's website at http://www.joyceandjimlavene.com/

Joyce and Jim also write the “Renaissance Faire” mystery series.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book

Murder of a Bookstore Babe by Denise Swanson is the 13th book in the “Scumble River” mystery. Publisher: Obsidian, March 2011

Who could be driven to kill by books and sweets? While school psychologist Skye Denison eagerly anticipates the grand opening of a new bookstore called Tales & Treats, many of Scumble River's most outspoken citizens want to shut down the owners before they even open—and one is angry enough to commit murder. Dropping off some books at Tales & Treats, Skye trips over a toppled bookcase, which has crushed a woman beneath its weight. While police search for motives, Skye sees the messy aftermath of a half-baked plot to murder somebody else. Skye is juggling her own busy life, but when all the clues lead to dead ends, she turns up the heat on her own investigation ... and stumbles upon the deadly secret that got this bookstore babe done in. And if Skye isn't careful, the killer just might make her the sequel.
Skye is excited about the opening of the new bookstore. When she stops by later with donated books, she stumbles upon a woman’s dead body. Assisting the police and with help from an ex-student, Skye will separate fact from fiction and bring this killer to justice. I love the pace of this story as we watch Skye interact with her friends, family and the townspeople. I adore the characters, especially watcher her mother May manipulates her family members. Skye’s devotion to her multiple jobs and her family remain strong and I like that she is holding her own more against her mother. The author did a good job at capturing my attention and kept me guessing as to the identity of the killer, and when I did, I enjoyed seeing Skye put the pieces together. This was a good read and I look forward to the next book in the likable series.

Visit Denise Swanson’s website at http://www.deniseswanson.com/

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book